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12/29/2005
06:10 PM
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AskMeNow Launches Interactive Voice Response

Customers will be able to register for the AskMeNow service, which delivers text-message responses to any question, from their cell phone or mobile device.

AskMeNow, a company that delivers text-message answers to questions on any topic Thursday will officially launch an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology into its service as a step closer to integrating voice recognitioncapabilities early in 2006.

The IVR system will allow customers to register for the AskMeNow service from their cell phone or mobile device. It also will speed information to users such as automated information for flight times, restaurants and hotels, directions, weather, stock quotes, sports and news.

The basic AskMeNow feature is free. The extended service is 49 cents per call. About 55 percent of the service change belongs to AskMeNow and the remainder to the telecommunications carrier, said Darryl Cohen, chief executive officer at AskMeNow, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ocean West Holding Corp.

"Simple questions are answered from a few to 30 seconds, whereas more complicated questions may take several minutes," he said. "We're developing new IVR applications for many of the latest phones from the Palm Treo to the Motorola Razor, and expect them to be ready between 30 and 75 days."

Advertising also brings in revenue for AskMeNow. Each time a question is text messaged, the answer is returned with an advertisement that relates to either a previous asked question, geographic location or preference indicated when the user initiated the service. The information is delivered with help from hundreds of service representatives at the company's facility in Manila, along with automated software tools.

AskMeNow has received the most interest from those trialing the IVR system in the United States, about 80 percent. Most are in the eastern United States. About 30,000 have signed up to use the service, Cohen said.

AskMeNow is in the process of purchasing voice recognition software and plans to incorporate search technology in the first quarter to increase accuracy rate and speed information to users.

The voice recognition technology also is expected to make the system more predictive. "The problem is when people are speaking on a cell phone there is a lot of background noise," Cohen said. "If we can build some stability into the platform, we think that we can capture most phrases people say, so the auto templates will eliminate the need for the human element as a backup."

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